The football world has been left stunned by the latest developments around Lionel Messi and Barcelona, with both parties caught in an ugly stand-off.
La Liga - Spain's top-tier football league - has taken Barcelona's side in the explosive feud with Messi, insisting he can only leave the club if a rival stumps up his €700 million ($A 1.1 billion) release clause is met or if another club negotiates a lower transfer fee with the Catalan giants.
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The issue has been a real sticking point between club and player, with Messi insisting he's entitled to enact the get-out clause in his contract that would allow him to leave for free.
Barcelona say the deadline for the get-out clause in Messi's contract has passed and La Liga released a statement backing the club over the ugly dispute.
Official statement by La Liga. They side with Barcelona in Leo Messi contract battle: “Current deal is still valid and paying release clause for €700m is the only way out”. 🛑— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 30, 2020
Manchester City are still waiting for Barça decision. 🔵 #MCFC pic.twitter.com/p15IWcBRMg
It's no surprise that La Liga have sided with Barcelona on the Lionel Messi contract dispute. The league cannot afford to lose their biggest player. After Messi, the biggest name in the league is Griezmann? Hazard?— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) August 30, 2020
An official statement on La Liga's website reads: "In relation to the different interpretations (some of them contradictory to each other) published in recent days in different media, related to the contractual situation of the player Lionel Messi with Barcelona, La Liga considers it convenient to clarify [matters].
"The contract is currently in force and has a 'termination clause' applicable to the event that Lionel Messi decides to force the early unilateral termination of the contract.
"In compliance with the applicable regulations, and following the corresponding procedure in these cases, La Liga will not carry out the process for the player to be removed from the federation if they have not previously paid the amount of said clause."
Messi's battle to secure a move away from Barca is now threatening to become a drawn-out saga, even though he has already decided that he no longer wishes to play for the club.
The 33-year-old purposely failed to report for medical testing at the club's training facility ahead of the new season in order to put pay to any lingering doubts over his mindset.
Messi's missed test raises the possibility that he will now boycott pre-season in an attempt to force a transfer.
Without passing a coronavirus test, Messi will be unable to join teammates for Ronald Koeman’s first training session on Monday, with the start of the new La Liga season less than two weeks away.
Messi was due for testing at 10.15am on Sunday but according to sources at Barcelona, he failed to show up at the Ciutat Esportiva.
Messi no-show adds to Barcelona drama
The club’s captain and greatest ever player could now be punished with a fine and even a reduction in salary if the strike continues.
The meet-up was a chance for Messi to make his first public appearance since he stated his intention to leave Camp Nou last week.
Instead, his absence offers a clear indication of his determination to secure a move and how ugly this dispute could now become.
As news of Messi's failure to show up at Barcelona for his pre-season test spread, so too did an image of a young fan left waiting in vain for an opportunity to see his hero.
💥The deadline for Messi to arrive for the PCR test has now expired and the player has not appeared in the training center— Ihsan (@AbubakariIhsan8) August 30, 2020
📸 The young Messi Fan is still waiting for his legend to Come 😔 pic.twitter.com/wu2b9yevmF
Lionel Messi has not turned up for his COVID-19 test today at FC Barcelona's training centre.— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) August 30, 2020
It is another clear indication of his desire to leave the club. ❌ pic.twitter.com/2ScNinj05s
A young fan waited for Messi to show up to Barca's pre-season training 💔 pic.twitter.com/B9qM6Lw3Hx— 🇬🇭 african american™© 🇺🇸🗽 (@pettywap0) August 30, 2020
Messi’s lawyers believe the clause that allows him to leave for free refers not to a specific date but to 10 days after the end of the season.
Given last season was extended into August due to the pandemic, with the Champions League final played just over a week ago, they maintain Messi’s request to leave came within the agreed period.
His absence on Sunday suggests he is prepared to do whatever it takes to quit the club he joined as 13-year-old boy, and where most expected him to continue all the way through to retirement.
Supporters, some of whom stormed Camp Nou in protest last week, remain hopeful Messi might still be persuaded.
Manchester City is thought to be the most likely next destination for Messi, with Goal reporting that ex-Barca boss Pep Guardiola has been in touch over a potential reunion at Etihad Stadium.
Paris-Saint Germain, Juventus and Manchester United are also thought to be considering a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, but La Liga has now revealed their stance on his current situation.